Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Drakes and Other Delights

Apologies to HA + TJB. Love the album, though. I think my folks wore one out back in the 70's.

Hold my scotch.

AT left, a bear drake. 

Size 12 4xl. Yep - big guy. 

Deer hair tails. Double dubbed body the back being a grey-copper SLF mix and the front being a green-rust SLF mix. Ribbed with the tag end of the tying thread. Double hackle: Speckled hen over brown. 

I tie this on a steelhead iron heavy hook in 7 as well. The light wire 12 floats nicely in the near-film. The size 7 sinks slowly and makes for a great twitch retrieve or for the hand-twist. Very effective last year on the Manistee which was low and slow (for the Manistee).  This guy robbed all the best pools.

Steve Bird's low-water Spey flies really helped me with this guy.  

There are lots of patterns for brown/olive/green drakes. Luckily, fine discrimination does not seem to apply when these large (size 8-10) beasties are on the water. Davie McPhail's own mayfly pattern he tied-up for Irish stillwater fishing is very similar in profile. 

Many patterns are tied on even larger hooks but I like the 12 and 14 4xl streamer hooks. The trout seem to take on the "gulp" whole mouth attack and so I find these hooks sufficient to connect. 

I'm going north this weekend and fish cold water where the local drake hatch has spread to a large lake adjacent to Lake Michigan. The large fish cruise at dusk and take these flies both as they emerge and as they return. They emerge and take to flight quickly on this water. 

I might have to whip up a few CDC winged variants and see if that helps with  the spinner return. Hmmm.

The emerger is a big shaggy mass of shuck and fly which is best represented by just that: mass. Fish clear the water taking the nymphs in their final ascent looking much like a Killer Whale at Seaworld.

Anyway, that's the story.  Dawn and dusk. 

I'm going to throw large flies for brown trout. I'll tie some western coachmen streamers tomorrow in case I'm able to convince my host to throw a few for "little fish" : my beloved brookies.

Hope the holiday weekend sees fly rods in all your hands. Might be hex time here. They're late this year. I'm going far enough north I don't have to endure the combat fishing which is the hex.

It's a good weekend to foment revolution. Pick a cause. Defy some authority.

Minister: "The colonies are revolting." 

King George: "They certainly are."


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Too Damn Old

My current desktop this Saturday afternoon: the WIP, a chess problem whose solution won't quite stick in the fore-brain without the physical mnemonic, my passport and assortment of "outdoor cards"-- read tax stamp --  required to buy the various licenses I need this year, and an honest brown ale.

I never intended to live this long.

I've outlived too many bullets that shared that point of view. There's one in a sock drawer that I thought would be self-administered for a period of years but I outlived that bastard, too. Keep him around just for sport.

Anyway, laying in a supply of decent pipe tobacco for the rest of days. I'll age these five years now that I've gone past my "best used by" date. I'm going to start acting like a responsible adult and plan for the long-term.  Pipe tobacco and fly rods are my version of planning.

 Nice but skinny rainbow taken this week at Trout Club for Bears.  Yes, I know he looks rather like a sardine. I'm saying growth spurt like a teenage boy. Went 16"+. Maybe 18" but I wasn't going to handle him.

No need. Social catching.

 Early morning fish. Took him on a coachman streamer at 6:30 AM +/-.

A grizzly hornberg. I went through a ton of these this week. Effective as a searching pattern. Versitile doped-up as a dry or pulled under and fished as a wet or streamer.

My thanks to Alan for introducing me to this beastie.  Felt good fishing it actively.

Lou the foxhound.

He wonders if I noticed the sign said  thirty-five and not the forty-five I'm doing.
Should have been a police dog.

I have to go buy licenses for outings. There are far worse jobs.

Where are you good fellows heading this year?


Monday, June 17, 2019

The Stuff of Pipe Dreams

At left, some Dunhill from my cellar from 2007. Also, a lovely fly patch from Dette Flies that'd I'll never sew onto anything because I'm not a boy scout.

Badges !?! ... you know the rest.

Dunhill has gone out and there's some scrambling now a couple years later. Think Pearsall's for pipe guys. That tin -- aged as it is -- runs somewhere between $100 and $150 in the closet market. It was $8 or so new.

Not my brand but I had a couple tins put aide in case it became my brand. I also keep around some "guest" mixtures. 

I'm giving the tin to a guy this week who has invited me to fish water that I'd otherwise not be able to access. I feel odd about that. I'd like to go to his trout club and fish country-club fish and have a nice steak and scotch after dusk. Still feels a little off. 

I'm not much of a club guy. Don't want to be in any club that would let the likes of me on premise.  Means there might be more like me around those parts. (shudder).

Anyway, Dirk likes this brand as he's a "soft English mix" sort of fellow -- which is fine. He's not swallowed nearly as much gasoline as I have. His taste buds probably still work. Mine are moving right up into the "Haddo's Delight" range.

At left, a large tin of Frog Morton's Cellar from another defunct producer: McClelland's in Kansas City.

This one has whiskey barrel stave cubes packed in with the  tobacco. Im not a "topping" or "casing" guy but Frog Morton's is a bit of a treat.

It is aging until the doctor tells me it's okay to smoke it: it won't matter that much one way or another and you might as well die happy.

I had to buy some 12' tapered leaders this week. Gin clear water, slow glassy stream, wary trout. That's the norm where I am going so it'll be a lot of casting from my knees to sighted spooky fish. My 12' leader hand ties are not so good. My albright knots kink when they shouldn't on the light stuff. I'll have to work that out.

So, I bought the Hardy. These are nice leaders and I used them on the Gibbon last year.

I don't have any tweed for the club.

Dog ate a ham sandwich out of the jacket pocket when I'd worn the gillie jacket bird hunting. Hmm. I've lost more than one article of clothing to the combination of dog and forgotten ham sandwich. Must be a pattern. I wonder if anyone makes a dog-proof jacket? Hmm.

Also, the yard guys mowed a nearly new Korker's boot that was drying alongside the drive:

 Royal PIA. I wish I had the strength to split the toe of a wading boot.

 Off to do some damage elsewhere myself.

We're in the golden age of fly fishing gear. This luxurious state of  every piece of gear we'd want in five different color varieties isn't going to last. They'll be a grand shortage of great gear here in a bit. We'll all have to go back to cruising garage sales.

Look what has happened to the pipe guys.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Where Are the Bugs?

A fine trout dash to the upper Manistee last weekend. I managed a few brookies all of who refused to pose nicely for an in-net picture. I'm getting very good at impressionistic trout photography and I don't even use elaborate post-production filters! Wrigglers!

Anyway, up north and something is going on this year.

Michigan is usually a metronome bug state. This week has this bug. Next week starts that hatch. We're as dependable as the day is long.

Not this year. Even the mosquitoes are light and sparse. It's been a long cool wet spring but the insect life as is sparse and rare as observed by this angler.

I found some of these fellows. I am a poor judge of insect taxonomy but I believe these to be eastern swallowtails. They are substantial in size so I doubt they are the Canadian variant.

Bear camp. New solo stove ranger portable firepit in the foreground. Awesome stuff.

Doing its thing: containing fire.

These fellows were out in vast numbers. Great to see. The bears will be happy.

Dinner spot waiting on some sort of activity.

The time stamp is off on my camera by about 3 hours. This is just before 8 PM. I took a couple brookies from the cutbank on the far side during my first pass down this section at noon. I fished just over a half mile of stream early in the day then returned in late afternoon to fish the same water having scouted and memorized some key features.

This was a nice glide with three submerged structures on its stretch.

One particularly nice brookie I estimate over the 12" class was twice fooled by nice wire-wrapped partridge-and-yellow spiders in size 14. Nice fish.

Each time he dove instantly into one of these remaining CCC structures placed in-stream to provide habitat back in the day. Most are in the last stage of existence and are wader-rippers with big spike nails and jagged timbers. They do however hold fish.

The water is nearly five feet deep around this example which happened to show up well on the photo.

The trout took on the downstream drift and couldn't free himself from the tension of the line at thirty degrees off to the side. He'd then dive and sprint to the bottom of the structure where he easily snapped my light leader. As soon as I detected life on the line using a hand-twist technique (same thing I learned in Colorado long-line nymphing years ago), he'd be off.

I suspect this trout sports a dozen tattoos of disappointed anglers on his fins and holds a mouthful of piercings like a Seattle barista.

I was able to enjoy the last of some Squadron Leader. I'm not sure how much longer it will be in production so I've stockpiled plenty for the rest of my days. This tin was purchased in 8/2008.

That's my on-stream "Missouri Meerschaum" . I'm not going to cry if it gets away from me in fast current. I believe the $5 pipe is what one wants when on the water.

The advantage of the large wall tent is that one can work away late into the night in a mosquito free environment.

Scotch and ink, gentlemen: almost as pleasing as trout and water. (The T.P. is because of the allergies. I was a sneezing bear Saturday night.)

If you find the hatch, please let me know. I'm thinking of putting a picture of the brown drake on milk jugs.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Summer Trout

 It's summer.

At left, a purchase from a winter ago: The Hardy Cascapedia in the 4/5 trout size. I'm torn as to which fishing buddy to leave it to because without a doubt, there'll be a knife fight in the attorney's parking lot over the thing.

I got to meet John Shaner this spring who is the East Coast "Mr. Hardy" among other things. I'm told he had a hand in the re-emergence of this wonderful piece of gear.

He's a super guy and has an encyclopedic knowledge of wet flies, the origins of the North American dry fly tradition, and and and. Besides this, he's a super guy you'd want to introduce to your sister.

I got a bit of stage fright in meeting him.

I fed him and our crew dinner -- a special special Italian affair with great wines (Thanks Scott!) and meatballs someone dear to me taught me to make -- but except for "Hello, glad to meet you" I couldn't bring myself to ask him to sign my old copy of Bergman's Trout.

It goes back to meeting Buck Buchanan in the day (NFL HOF 1990). He died at age 51 of lung cancer. When I met him as a kid, he was the largest man I'd ever seen. I thought he was a giant. I'd watched him on television with my dad and here he was shaking my hand. All I could do was stammer.

I had a date with a girl once who was so beautiful I couldn't talk to her. My only hope was to talk at her while focusing on the foreign businessman and his wife over at the table behind her. The fellow probably thought I was gay the way I kept staring at him. Every time I looked at her, I lost my voice.

Luckily I covered my embarrassment in alcohol because that always helps, right?

With Shaner, I covered it by vicodin and an early trip to bed while everyone else ate and talked. I didn't even get into the dining room. I twisted my ankle the day before and the bastard had swollen to the size of a softball while pounding like it was on an anvil. I wasn't good company.

I'm the king of pissed-away opportunities.

So, the Cascapedia is delightful. It's spooled with OPST Lazar line and I left room to handle a whole fly line in 4/5. I'm going with a Rio LT in DT 4 wt.

Yes, at 6+ ounces someone will say "isn't that heavy?"  The difference between the Cascapedia and a Galvan Torque is about two ounces. That's a couple slices of ham. I'm not going to feel the difference.

I'd say I'm not casting postage-scale light rods but that isn't true. I've an 8' WInston BIIIx in 4 wt and a Hardy Zephrus 8' 4wt  both that are in that light class.  I know 8'6" is the better length in both rods; but, I live in Michigan and 8' is just fine. I prefer the McKellip M84 8' cane but it rains here and one must make concessions.

You don't have a problem with cane in the rain? Good on you. I have and I do.

Anyway, I bought this reel something more than a year ago and have been using it for single-handed Spey work and some double-handed on a 3 wt Echo 10' 6" 3 wt. It's loaded with OPST Lazar line and backing. The thing is large. I've left enough room to make a loop-to-loop for the LT DT from Rio in 4 wt.

I'm tying.

 In sorting some boxes, I've segregated some flies from the collection for this coming weekend on the Au Sable and Manistee both of which are unseasonably -- and uncomfortably -- high.

  Big coachman-style streamer with a double hackle head inspired by the low-water spey flies Steve at The Soft-Hackle Journal ties. Mine aren't as clean or neat; but, the big hydraulic wake of the twin hackles does something special on 12" strips and BOOM trout take 'em.  Size 7  Alec Jackson irons hook here.

 A nice red-assed inspired wire wrapped soft-hackle that does well in finding the underwater soft seam below faster surface current.  Fish lying in that gravel channel under the flow take this beast with gusto which is good because I often have enough slack in my system on the take that I need the assist.

Black and palmered in a wide-gap #14. Always helpful in softer water when things are still a bit higher and faster than usual.

I'm making the run to do a "dry camp" up on the Manistee at the ruins of Deward.

The river is small there and high water won't hurt the brookies. I'll swing a hammock (Hennessy - now a 20 year old beast good as the first day new) and use a Ranger stove from the Solo Stove people as my portable fire pit. It's a lightweight camp confined by distance-from-road restrictions.

Hey, we all want to enjoy the unspoiled wilderness so some camping restrictions are in order.

Hope summer smiles on you. It was a long time getting here.


Thursday, May 23, 2019


I couldn't find a public-domain picture of Ed Zern to feature in this post.

I miss the humorists of the last generation: Buchwald, Zern, McManus. Hell, I miss Erma.

I miss Royko.

There is an essay lurking behind this lede; but, I'm going to spare you the details. This is a fly fishing blog, mostly.

I've never solved an important problem while standing in a trout stream.

That doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying.

I can't be the first guy to put that in print so: unattributed quote reuse.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

From Adventure: Treasure

AT left, some favorite hooks acquired from the Dette fly shop,  Livingston Manor, NY.

I love the Partridge hooks. I've used a few and find then to be optimal for my fishing. Finding the mother lode was a huge bonus for the trip.

Dette has the whole catalog on their shelves. The heavy wire hooks are my favorites for spring because my soft hackle wets  easily penetrate the film and drift down to the 12 - 18 inch depth I find pulls fish from their bank and timber hiding spots. We hatch a lot of caddis in this state and so nymphs "practicing" their assent is a common sight to trout. Wets floating in the water column do the job.

I was so excited to find the hooks that I went a little overboard on the buy.

I believe.

At left, a no-hackle nymph given the extra weight of a bead-head. Yes, you correctly recognize the pink squirrel.

The extra-length tail on this #17 model prevents the tumble effect common on some bead-heads. It allows me a little more leverage in "steering" my fly during downstream drifts in gin-clear water.

I believe in the pink squirrel. It has been a day-saver for me.

AT left, a generic Michigan searching fly: the hackled olive spider. This one is tied on an Alec Jackson steel dry fly hook I find heavy enough to penetrate the film.

I will use this fly on the Upper Manistee near the Deward tract here right after Memorial Day. 

And since spring is a long slow affair this year, I'll also make good use of this purple-and-starling tied with my diminishing stock of Pearsall's thread.

These  dark little pieces of food do well for me in shallow water ticking over gravel or cobble right into the head of a pool. There's almost always some hungry trout with enough interest to make a grab.


I've broken out the light camping gear: my Hennesy Hammock I use in Canada as there is no flat ground whatsoever in the Wabakimi.

When it is hot, sleeping in the hammock is preferable to lying in a bunk and sweating all night despite the fact I smell of bacon to the bears. Sleeping in a hammock is called "hanging" by the cool kids. Makes me think of hams hanging in the rafters. I think bears think that way, too.

It takes two minutes to set-up my light camp and on the Upper Manistee in spring, I want to waste no time. The brookies are hungry!

I'm booked into the Driftless for early fall. I'm going to give my new hooks a work-out there. Maybe on the fall trip it won't rain six inches in the week. Maybe. Falls can be wet over there.